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The hottest trend in customer engagement in retail is the omnichannel approach. But what is it? How is it different from the multichannel approach? Let’s find out.
Shopping was once quite an analogue experience- you go to the store, narrow down a couple of items, try them out, purchase, and leave. If the item was unavailable, well… Better luck next time. In a way, the retail experience was carried out through a single channel- the channel being the store.
Then we began to see a shift. Customers began the sales journey by browsing through items in-store. As they approached the check-out counter, they’d get hit with the “Sorry, this item is a sample, it’s currently out of stock.” Just as the customer was about to turn away annoyed, the cashier immediately follows up by stating that, “The item is available online. Just visit our online store and you’ll get it between 2-3 business days.”
And then, we saw another shift- let’s take Starbucks as an example. Customers can now place their order through the Starbucks mobile app, and pick it up from the closest retailer. If it wasn’t available in one, customers need not fret. There are multiple Starbucks in the vicinity, so customers could drive to another franchise, pick up their drink, and carry on with their day.
As you can see, the integration of digital technology with the inclusion of more channels, makes shopping a lot easier.
The evolution of retail models
With our three examples above, we saw three retail models in action. The first being single-channel, followed by multichannel, and finally omnichannel.
Single-channel is the traditional retail model. According to MageStore, it’s based on a single distribution system. The stores are either completely online, or completely offline.
This model received a lot of success because it allowed retailers to decrease expenses while creating meaningful relationships with customers in the area. If one store gained a lot of success, it would become a retail giant in the area. This model also allowed for extensive quality control, but it still limits growth to other markets. This coupled with the fact that customers want a more convenient experience, led to the emergence of the multi-channel model.
As businesses grow, the demand to cover more real estate grows. This could be in the form of multiple franchises or by covering more channels like social media, web, and email as a way to engage with more customers. While they are successfully covering more bases, the primary focus isn’t to deliver a seamless experience. Instead, think of it as creating a different journey per channel.
In the example above, the customer had to place a new order on the item they were interested in-store. It’s definitely more flexible than the single-channel approach, but it’s limited by the restrictions of the channel.
And finally, we have the omnichannel model. Omnichannel is similar to multichannel, in the sense that there are multiple channels being used to interact with customers. However, the experience and the messaging must be consistent across all channels.
According to Jeff Epstein from Business2Community, to truly be an omnichannel player, you have to be:
A great example of a successful omnichannel model can be the Beauty Insider program from Sephora. Points can be collected and redeemed from brick-and-mortar stores, through the mobile app, and through the website. This also extends through the deals being offered, and the message across each touch-point of the customer journey. It’s a great way to build loyalty between brands and customers.
Currently, customers demand a unified experience- adopting an omnichannel approach is the only way forward.
What an omnichannel customer journey looks like
An omnichannel customer journey consists of key interactions over multiple touch points between customer or prospect and a company during the point of sale and throughout the customer lifecycle. The interactions may start and stop on different channels, which increases the complexity of delivering a continued experience when the customer changes communication options.
Customers expect a seamless experience — regardless of the device or communication channel they choose. They are more likely to choose a brand that has invested in the customer journey over brands that create frustrating service experiences. It’s crucial to integrate omnichannel communications into an integrated, seamless platform.
Why businesses need adopt this approach
Here are some insights that will shift your view and urge you to adopt omnichannel strategies.
According to the BigCommerce report, Gen Z are 2-3 times more likely to make a purchase through social channels, with Instagram taking the lead. When it comes to buying in a physical store, only 32% of customers are likely to purchase in-store. With digital paving the path, it’s time to adopt this approach.
Aberdeen Group discovered that companies with a well-defined omnichannel customer experience have a customer retention rate of 91%, compared to 33% retention for companies with a weaker omnichannel strategy. A report from IDC retail insights also found that omnichannel shoppers have a higher lifetime value of 30% more than shoppers who only use one channel.
This suggests that customers love the omnichannel approach as it allows brands to deliver personalized interactions that customers expect. Brands, through omnichannel customer engagement, can deliver on rising customer expectations while retaining loyalty.
The current digital transformation has not only transformed the way we do business, but has also transformed customer expectations. According to McKinsey, customers expect information to be accessible within a few clicks. Many customers use different channels to justify making a purchase through extensive research.
We’re already witnessing customer complaints right now with this process, so expect the volume of complaints to increase in the next few years. Adopting an omnichannel engagement strategy can solve this problem.
As mentioned above, jumping between channels for information can be exhausting for customers, but did you know that it can tire your teams out too?
McKinsey coined this term called “the boomerang effect,” which is when customers keep coming back to a company multiple times for the same query. An omnichannel approach can unify customer interactions which means your agents don’t have to keep jumping between multiple tickets for the same queries, and your customers don't have to return for the same question.
The Components of an omnichannel customer engagement strategy
Always be there, or your customers will be square!
A simple way to get started with the omnichannel customer engagement strategy is to offer 24/7 customer service. This can be facilitated by an always-on chatbot.
A requirement of the omnichannel approach is to empower all channels and all agents with the information they need to handle a customer query- a chatbot falls under this requirement. Train your chatbot by uploading an extensive knowledge base that covers policies and your most frequently asked questions.
Also, remember to monitor your chatbot regularly. You may discover the emergence of new frequently asked questions. Train your chatbots with responses to these questions. Or if they’re too complex, use your chatbot to acknowledge your customer’s distress and convey that a live agent will get back to them shortly to resolve the query. Otherwise, a customer will gladly fall into the arms of a competitor if their needs aren’t addressed.
Consistency is key
Customers, without knowing what it means to be omnichannel, expect omnichannel experiences. If I ask a question on a web channel, and send a message on WhatsApp regarding the same question, I expect the agent to know what I’m talking about. I also expect to be talked in the same tone.
The key is to make your messaging as consistent as possible to truly deliver a unified, frictionless experience. Look for talent that can help unify your messaging for both marketing and for customer communication across all boards. But remember that while it is important to unify your messaging, your goal must always be to make sure your content connects with your audience, otherwise, that’s another purchase out the window.
The power of a one-view
Currently, a lot of companies opt for multiple platforms to carry out different tasks, but the issue that follows is a lack of transparency and connectivity. For omnichannel to work effectively, it has to be seamless. Multiple platforms cause friction, that’s why it’s so important to use a one-view platform that’s flexible enough to support integrations with other platforms.
Therefore, brands need to fit the mismatched pieces of customer data into a central location. This central location could be a digital customer experience platform, or something similar. Using a platform like Engati allows you to stitch customer conversations from multiple channels into one place, providing agents with context to previous conversations. It also makes retrieving data, adding data entries, and carrying out transactions more fluid.
That’s the power of a one view. It can unify customer insights and put them in one place for all agents to access, allowing them to personalize each customer interaction. And it also ensures that no matter where a customer begins their journey, all the data associated with that journey is safely tucked into one place.
The role of hyper-personalization
Rising customer expectations and omnichannel experiences go hand-in-hand with hyper-personalization. Customers expect a personalized experience at every touchpoint, regardless of channel. With a one-view inbox, this is achievable. Because all data and messaging is kept in one place, you avoid cross-data mishaps, making the task of creating hyper-personalized experiences much more seamless.
Breaking out of the silos way of doing business requires a lot more than an adoption of a strategy. It demands a cultural shift. Throughout history, businesses have been separated out by departments. One corner of the office for marketing, the other for research and development, another for sales, the floor for customer service, the list goes on!
There was always no incentive for teams to work together- the KPIs that employees were scored on had more to do with individual performance, rather than what was needed for the customer. However, the omnichannel customer engagement strategy demands these barriers to be broken down. There needs to be more cooperation in the workplace because cooperation allows for transparency, which paints a more accurate picture of the customer and their pain-points.
Adopt the omnichannel customer engagement strategy in 3 easy steps
Step 1: Get to know your customers
Before you adopt the strategy, you have to evaluate whether it’s necessary for your business at this point of time. Research your current demographic. Understand their pain-points and their buying behaviours. Invite them to share feedback with you, and make a decision.
While a major part of customer experience is exceeding expectations, you have to know what your customers’ current needs are. Otherwise, it’s just a shot in the dark.
Is this what they want?
While the idea of an omnichannel engagement strategy excites some customers, others are slightly more wary. Certain customers find ads that are catered to their needs fascinating, while others are left wondering “hey, how did they find that out?”
While adopting this approach, you have to strike a balance between personalization and invasion. Sacrificing your customer’s trust is a heavy fee that no brand can afford to pay.
Before adopting this strategy, remember to:
Step 2: Pick the channels you want to target
While acquiring more digital real estate is the ultimate goal, it’s far more important to target the channels that your current customers populate. The usual pattern we see is website, mobile application, and a social media channel. Discover where your customers are and build a presence there. Only then can you think about acquiring more estate.
Step 3: Adopt the right tools
We’ve already talked about the importance of a digital customer experience platform. A one-view platform avoids all hassles and confusions, bridges the gap between your customers and customer service team, and is the glue that keeps your omnichannel strategy strong.
The time to become an omnichannel player is now
Register with Engati to begin your journey towards unifying customer experience.